Kalyn Ponga news stuns NRL as Broncos hit by new blow after Reece Walsh detail emerges

The reigning Dally M winner has some NRL fans wondering if a State of Origin recall is possible.

NRL fans were left stunned after the Knights named star fullback Kalyn Ponga for an early return this week against the Raiders, which has ignited the debate on whether Billy Slater should turn to him for the Maroons. Ponga has been missing since round seven having fractured a bone in his foot.

Reports suggested Ponga could return in round 19 or 20 for the Knights. However, NRL supporters will see the reigning Dally M winner return even earlier having been named as fullback this week. His return comes the weekend before Maroons coach Slater announces his team for State of Origin Game 3.

Billy Slater embraces Reece Walsh and Kalyn Ponga reacts.
Knights fans were thrilled when Kalyn Ponga (pictured right) was announced in the team list as speculation around a Maroons call-up gathers after the Reece Walsh (pictured left) drama. (Getty Images)

And with Reece Walsh facing strong criticism for his Game 2 performance, along with Slater's lack of utility on the bench, fans can't help speculate over whether the reigning Dally M winner could find himself a role in the Maroons 17.

Ponga was in scintillating form before his injury earlier this year and finished 2023 as the best player in the league. His ability to play fullback, in the halves or potentially in the backline makes him a dynamic option.

However, it appears unfathomable Slater will turn to Ponga after just one game back in the NRL even if the Maroons are seeking an X-factor from the bench in Game 3. While Selwyn Cobbo could have returned to the bench, alongside Ben Hunt, he will now most likely find himself in the starting line-up after Xavier Coates injured his hamstring on the weekend.

Regardless, it was pointed out Ponga ruled himself out of Origin contention last year to focus on club footy. This could once again be the case after a long injury layoff.

Slater's pending decision comes as a photo emerged of Walsh after Origin Game 2 showing fellow Broncos teammate Payne Haas his injured hand after the game. Coach Kevin Walters opted to rest his Origin stars in their loss to the Warriors, which resulted in plenty of backlash from fans. However, resting Walsh might have been due to an injured hand after his Origin performance in Melbourne.

And on Tuesday, 'NRL Physio' Brien Seeney revealed the prodigious fullback suffered a hand injury in the Maroons' loss. "Reece Walsh had scans on his hand last week after it blew up with swelling post Origin 2," he posted on social media alongside a photo with Walsh showing his troublesome hand to Haas after Origin 2.

"Thankfully came back clear of major injury, so no doubts over his availability for this week. May have contributed to his “resting” in Round 17 though." Either way, the Broncos are fighting off a number of major injury concerns as they dropped out of the top eight. And they will be missing more starters come round 18.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 31: Maroons coach Billy Slater and Reece Walsh of the Maroons celebrate winning game one of the 2023 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and New South Wales Blues at Adelaide Oval on May 31, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 31: Maroons coach Billy Slater and Reece Walsh of the Maroons celebrate winning game one of the 2023 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and New South Wales Blues at Adelaide Oval on May 31, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Broncos' loss to the Warriors was their fourth consecutive defeat and they dropped out of the top-eight into 10th spot on the ladder, leaving their NRL finals hopes hanging in the balance. The Broncos now face a grand final rematch against a Penrith side desperate to bounce back from a shock home defeat to the Cowboys, with all three of Walters' Origin stars returning for the Friday night showdown at Suncorp Stadium.

However, they will now be missing Kottoni Staggs this week for the showdown with the Panthers with the centre missing due to personal reasons. Brisbane have already been rocked by injuries to Adam Reynolds, Corey Oates and Jordan Riki.